• Consumer Health: Strength training — get stronger, leaner, healthier

a young man in a gym, doing plank exercises for core muscle muscle development

well-rounded fitness routine contains several elements, including aerobic fitness, core exercises, balance training, and flexibility and stretching. The fifth element is strength training.

Strength training can be done at home or in a gym. Common methods of strength training include body-weight training, free weights, resistance tubing and weight machines. Here are videos illustrating each of these methods.

Strength training can improve your overall health and fitness by:

  • Preserving and enhancing your muscle mass, which is especially important as lean muscle mass naturally diminishes with age.
  • Increasing bone density and reducing your risk of osteoporosis.
  • Increasing your metabolism, which will allow you to burn more calories and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Protecting your joints from injury, improving your balance and reducing your risk of falls, which can help you maintain independence as you age.
  • Reducing the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression and diabetes.

During strength training, choose a weight or resistance heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions. As this becomes easier, gradually increase the amount of weight to keep doing 12 to 15 repetitions at a weight that tires your muscles. The important point is to exercise your muscles to fatigue — meaning that you can't lift any more with that muscle group. This stimulates factors in the muscle that contribute to improved muscle strength and growth.

You'll get the most benefit from your workouts if you're exercising at the proper exercise intensity for your health and fitness goals. Follow these do's and don'ts to maximize your strength training program.

Connecting with others can help make your goals stick. Share your progress and get encouragement from others in the Healthy Living group on Mayo Clinic Connect, an online patient community moderated by Mayo Clinic.

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